The Startup
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The Startup

I Resolve to Stay Pretty Much Exactly the Same

How My Future Daughter Helped Me Nix Self-Improvement for Self-Acceptance

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been way too into self-improvement.

At an impressionable young age, I’d read my mom’s women’s magazines that would tell me how to lose weight, get fit, get organized and eat healthy.

In the summers when I was in middle school, I’d take these suggestions to heart and I’d prepare daily schedules for myself that I thought would be endorsed by the magazines: wake up by 8 a.m., eat a healthy breakfast, jog two miles, do 30 sit-ups, vacuum, organize my closet, etc.

Looking back, I now realize how utterly weird that is. But at the time, it made perfect sense to me. If I wanted to be better, if I wanted to improve, I had to do what the magazines told me. I had do more. I had to be more.

Because what I already was, wasn’t enough.

Now that I’m a little older and a little, tiny bit wiser, I wish I could go back in time and tell preteen me to just calm way the F down. I’d suggest that maybe I should have a daily schedule that simply said “Read, write and do whatever the heck else you want because you’re a kid, you weirdo.”

Or better yet, I’d tell myself not to have a list at all and instead I’d just go outside, get dirty and play with my friends; watch “Hey Arnold” on Nickelodeon all day; play Mario Kart on my brother’s N64 when he was out of the house; or drink a can of Surge before I would one day grow up and realize how incredibly disgusting that pop was.

In short, I’d tell me to be me and enjoy life, just as it was and just as I was — because no improvement was necessary.

From the very beginning, we seem to tell girls that who they are — as is — isn’t enough.

Whereas boys have the simple “boys will be boys,” girls have “sugar and spice and everything nice.”

This breaks down to: boys do whatever the heck you want because we don’t expect you to be anything other than what you are, and girls, we expect you to be on your very best behavior all the time. Just because. Also, try to look cute while doing it.

It’s bullshit.

Part of me has always known it was bullshit, but I went along with the hype all the same. I kept trying to do more, learn more, give more, be more, even if it was exhausting. Even if all it did was lead me to think all the “shoulds” -I should be doing this, I should be doing that, I shouldn’t think this, I shouldn’t think that…(the list goes on and on…)

And it never made me happy, because it never felt like enough, because there’s always another thing you can add to your list — another thing you can resolve to improve about yourself.

But I’m not going to do that any more. Not even at New Year’s. Instead my resolution, if you can call it that, is to simply stay pretty much exactly the same but learn to embrace it.

Because the daughter I just found out I’m having deserves more than a mother who is striving. She deserves more than a mother who always feels like she’s not doing enough. She deserves a mother who doesn’t feel like she’s failing.

She deserves a mother who is perfectly happy as she is — thank you, very much.

Hopefully by living that way myself, I can teach my daughter that she’s perfectly perfect, just as she is.

Women’s magazines, New Year’s resolutions, and “sugar and spice and everything nice,” be damned.

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Ash Strehle Hartman

Ash Strehle Hartman

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I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’ve written nonfiction children’s books, bar reviews, health care communications and more: https://ashleystrehlehartman.com/